Celia stood before Rhode. Her usual cold and expressionless face was nowhere to be seen. Instead, this time, her face was filled with fury and anger. Rhode folded his arms as he stared at his own summoned spirit - And before he could give her any instructions, she immediately drew her sword in an arc and sliced the mercenary's corpse. Holy silver flames flared as it burned the poor bastard's corpse into nothingness.
Although the holy flame was powerful, it produced no smoke nor ashes in its wake. This could be considered an extremely environmentally friendly product...
"I haven't even told you to do anything yet?"
"I'm very sorry, Master."
Celia tilted her head down slightly, both of her hands were still gripping onto her sword tightly."I sensed a malicious presence and I couldn't stand it any longer, so..."
"... Forget it."
Rhode waved his hand and stopped Celia's apology. He wasn't affected by her action at all.
"Do you feel confident facing these things?"
After hearing Rhode's question, Celia went silent for a moment. Afterwards, her expression gradually sank and a conflicted expression appeared on her face.
"Regarding this... Master, I am... sorry. I'm unsure..."
Rhode stared helplessly at Celia, unsure of how to continue.
And, at this moment, a crisp laughter could be heard.
"Huhuhu... Seems like Master is in trouble, maybe I could help?"
Hearing her voice, Rhode frowned slightly and felt surprised.
"Why did you appear? I did not..."
"You are just merely unable to summon me, but this doesn't mean that I am unable to communicate with you. Master, did you forget? I am a core card. As long as I want to, I can communicate with you anytime. Yes... This is the same logic as making friends online with video call. We can see and hear each other, but if you want to do something to me then I'm sorry..."
"That's enough. I am not going to discuss this with you now."
Realizing that Gillian was purposely trying to go off topic, Rhode quickly tried to steer it back to the main issue at hand. He didn't specifically try to find out information about core cards because most of the special features basically have no much use - After all, a game is just a game and Artificial Intelligence is just AI, especially the AI of such core cards. It was rare enough to even for them to speak to their master.
Generally, only when players got into missions which involves a deck of cards, or somehow manage to kill some special creature and fulfill certain conditions, the core cards would only then appear and remind players that there is something worthy of his or her concern. For Gillian to go off topic on her own accord was indeed rare.
"Don't tell me this mission is related to you..."
Rhode frowned and asked. It couldn't be helped for him to have such thoughts, after all, this was the first mission he received in this world. Gillian, who had always been in silent, suddenly communicated with him on her own accord. This was a very weird event. Moreover, considering what Gillian said previously, it implied that she knew what was this whole game system was about. Rhode couldn't help but suspect if this was all part of the plan by this summoned spirit.
"Although I can very well understand Master's thoughts, but I am really sorry, you should be very clear on the triggering of random tasks. This isn't my doing. Well... you can think of me this way - An in-game assistant! You see, every time you receive a mission, the assistant will always intimately inform you of important details and data. Now this responsibility has fallen to me!~"
Gillian was determined and oddly excited, it seemed like she liked being an assistant. As if this job comes with a lot of future prospects.
"Well... okay then."
Rhode nodded helplessly. He still felt that this blabbering summoned spirit was unreliable. But at this point of time, he needed her assistance.
"I wish to know the danger level of this mission in relative to our combat power, and also, how many people are in there."
After listening to Rhode's questions, Gillian went silent for a moment as if in contemplation and then almost immediately replied afterwards: "Yellow Alert Level 3! As for the amount of people... I'm sorry, Master. I am not a radar. Such a cheating ability, I do not have it~"
"Only level 3?"
Upon hearing Gillian's quick yet cheeky reply, Rhode felt that something wasn't right. Missions with yellow alert meant that the difficulty wasn't very high. This level of danger might pose some difficulty to solo players, but with a 2 or 3 man party, it would be a walk in the park. Rhode could remember clearly that when he was level 35, this mission was blaring bright red warnings in his face which represents the highest danger level.
Realizing the change in Rhode's expression, Gillian giggled.
"At that time, that was a game, whereas this is reality, Master. Times have changed~"
An AI assistant... discussing with me about reality and fantasy? That sounds absurd in itself.
Rhode kept his thoughts to himself and stopped speaking to Gillian. He then turned over to look at Celia. This angelic girl had returned to her usual cold attitude, and seemed to be oblivious to the discussion between Gillian and Rhode. However, he couldn't blame her. Maybe this ought to be the normal reaction.
"Follow me. I have a plan."
Rhode gestured towards Celia. He decided to give the mission a shot as he had enough confidence in himself. He didn't feel that Gillian would lie to him on purpose, and this random mission was indeed triggered by him, which meant that it could be accomplished within his abilities. Moreover, Gillian also reminded him that he was very clear of the triggering of random tasks.
The mercenaries dragged their feet, walking out unsteadily from the mining tunnel.
Something was amiss about them this time. At this moment, the mercenaries seemed as if they had finished some heavy lifting. They were panting profusely and their footsteps appeared to be unstable. If these mercenaries weren't men, others might even misunderstand them to have done something unspeakable inside.
Frank led the group with heavy steps as if his body was inflicted with paralysis. This sensation was enough to make someone go crazy. It was as though countless of worms were squirming in their blood vessels and could not do anything to relieve the pain. A few mercenaries who could not bear the pain dug their fingernails into their own skin and ripped it out. Muscles and bones weren't spared either and some even grabbed their heads in agony as they screamed to their death.
Frank was very clear on this. As long he could withstand this torment, he would be able to receive boundless power. His current strength was already 2 times stronger than before. Frank had absolute confidence, whether it was Rhode, Sereck or the mercenary group leaders of the two most powerful mercenary groups, he had the confidence to dominate them with this power.
Frank grit his teeth and forced himself forward as he muttered under his breath, "Damn bastards! Just wait till then, I will show you what is REAL pain."
Rhode's image flashed through his mind. He smirked as he imagined the expression of despair on Rhode's face once he had thoroughly humiliated him with his power. Didn't that guy look like a woman? I will get some men to gang-rape him, and at that time, I will see if he is still able to smile!
Frank could feel a pleasurable sensation spreading throughout his body as he maintained his malicious thoughts. Even the painful sensation seemed to have lessened.
He smiled coldly and gazed at his front. Then his expression swiftly changed.
There was no one there.
"Where is he?"
Frank frowned as he scanned the entrance. He couldn't find the sentry that he sent to guard this place.
Maybe that bastard went off slacking?
When Frank screamed the sentry's name, it startled the mercenaries behind him and they stopped their steps. They lifted their heads slowly, but there were no signs of self-consciousness in their eyes. Their eyes were totally devoid of any life as if their spirits had already left their bodies.
Frank's voice echoed throughout the tunnel, but no response could be heard. Only deafening silence.
"Go search around!"
Frank started to feel like things were amiss after not getting any response. He turned around and gave a hand signal to his mercenaries. The mercenaries drew their weapons and ran, searching every corner. They weren't afraid of getting lost within the mines as they seemed to have obtained an ability after drinking the weird spring water. The ability gave them the knowledge of the entire terrain, even more so than those who worked here all their lives.
Looking at his men frantically searching for the missing sentry, Frank leaned against the wall and gaze coldly into the pitch black tunnel. He unknowingly clenched both of his fists as a bout of uncertainty and danger slowly flooded his thoughts.
What the hell is happening?
Why did my sentry disappear?
Could it be a dangerous underground creature? No, there shouldn't be any here.
Could it be that someone attacked him?
But no one else knows that they were here. Frank felt that he had been diligent enough in keeping this secret, moreover, his mercenaries were like him, no longer worthless trash. Their abilities could be as strong as those elite members, so how was it possible that he could have been murdered and not give any response or distress call?
Just as Frank was evaluating this peculiar case, a shriek echoed from deep within the tunnel.
Frank was startled as his eyes suddenly turned bright red. He drew his weapon and approached the tunnel, moving towards the sound of the scream.